Houses of Praise: Oman’s Majestic Mosques
Names like Notre Dame in Paris or St. Paul’s in London are not only centres for the faithful to come and worship, but also legitimate tourist sites, where stunning architecture can be admired, precious works of arts viewed, and mind-blowing craftsmanship gives praise not only to the almighty but the force of human creativity. Likewise, it is for the astounding mosques which are found in the sultanate of Oman.
People come to this country to experience the culture, the food, and the natural beauty of the region. But not to be missed are these edifices built to praise Allah, where true believers some to pray and join as a community. Designed with traditions going back centuries – and whose influence can be found throughout many Spanish churches, in fact – great devotion is expressed in the domes and spires of Oman’s mosques. For the most part, non-Muslims have limited windows to visit these beautiful places but be sure to make the time, for the sights you will see will be rewarding. Let us enter these inner sanctums together.
Ancient Traditions, Modern Constructions
The mosques in Oman are not, as with many of their European counterparts, buildings erected centuries ago. Only in the last several decades have these houses of worship come to be. But this makes them no less impressive, imposing or beautiful. And to be sure, the design choices and architectural motifs are time-honoured forms long ago established throughout Arab culture. Over a millennium of knowledge is packed into these impressive structures. The discerning eye will find echoes of recognizable aesthetic constructions seen widespread in some of the Islamic world’s most splendorous buildings.
Seek out some of the more common such features as you visit Oman’s mosques. Domes are almost always the centrepiece of the structures, creating a global feel as worshippers commune with the divine. Trademark minarets are sure to be found flanking the domes, from which Muslims are called to come to prayer from miles around. Inside, you are sure to find arched walkways and grandiose tile mosaic patterns adorning walls, ceilings and floors. Art treasures like golden lamps and exquisite calligraphy are sure to be featured as well. There is always plenty to see and appreciate whether you are among the faithful or just appreciate fine art.
Oman’s Crown Jewel of Mosques
Without a doubt, the most splendid house of worship in the entire Sultanate is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Located in the heart of the capital city of Muscat, it serves as the main destination for the faith in the nation. Breaking ground in the 1990s, it was completed in just over six and a half years and was inaugurated by the Sultan of Oman in 2001. Able to hold up to 20,000 worshippers at a time when combining all of its interior and exterior grounds, the massive structure was built from 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone and covers an estimated 416,000 square metres of space in total. The central dome rises 50 metres into the sky with 90 and 45.5-metre minarets standing by its side. If you don’t find that impressive enough, just wait until you step inside.
Before you even look up and around at the atrium within, be sure to look down at the splendorous carpet. Believe it or not, this 70 by 60 metres floor covering was woven by hand over a period of four years. It is estimated to have almost two million knots holding it together and covers the entirety of the 4,343m2 of prayer space. Now you can look up and perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is the 14 metres-tall chandelier, weighing in at 8.5 tonnes, with 600,000 crystals and 1,122 halogen bulbs illuminating it!
Leafy patterns and geometrical designs grace the white and dark grey marble that the main halls are made of. And if you take a look at the doors, you will find Quranic verses written in the astonishing Thuluth script, and some stained-glass panels, a symbol of universal harmony. It is easy to forget that all of this splendour isn’t just about making the place look beautiful. These are deeply embedded cultural forms meant to praise Allah. You will feel the fervent belief tangible in the air and perhaps be spiritually moved.